"All disease begins in the gut." Quote by Hippocrates
This was known 2,500 years ago, however, in today’s world of conventional medicine, it is ignored. Instead of fixing the root cause of constipation, we medicate our way out of it. Instead of figuring out why we have acid reflux, we medicate our way out of it. Having poor gut health can lead to multiple health problems, including mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, GERD, chronic skin issues, sinus problems, frequent illness, insulin resistance, weight gain, obesity, asthma, autoimmune disease, even cancer.
What causes poor gut health?
> Processed and inflammatory foods.
> Medications like proton pump inhibitors, antibiotics, synthetic hormones from birth control, NSAIDs like ibuprofen, etc.
> Chronic stress
> Too much alcohol
> Pesticides that are found in non-organic foods
> Gluten and other grains (more on this later)
> Toxic chemicals in cleaning and personal care products
> and MORE
Not everyone has the same issue that is causing poor gut health. Some just have an imbalance of the good and the bad bacteria. Others have a yeast overgrowth, others might have a parasitic infection, still others may have a bacterial overgrowth. One thing that is most common to happen is called “leaky gut” or increased gut permeability. When this happens, half digested food particles, toxins, and more are leaked from the gut to the GALT (gut associated lymph tissue). This causes the immune system to see it and recognize it as foreign. The immune system will go into attack mode. While this is a GOOD thing in acute situations, over time this causes chronic gut inflammation and eventually causes the immune system to overreact to things that would not normally be a problem. Cue increasing number of food allergies, constant sinus issues, and more.
No matter the issue, there are foundational steps you can take to heal your gut. Below are five ways you can start to feel better from the inside out - let’s get started!
1. Focus on whole, nutrient dense foods. Grassfed animal foods, pasture raised eggs, roasted vegetables in coconut or avocado oil or grassfed butter. Fruits in season. Think minimal processed foods, the less ingredients, the better. Focus on quality protein and fat with whole food carbohydrates. Also, eating cooked vegetables versus eating raw vegetables for a time is tolerated much better when trying to heal gut. Cooked vegetables are much easier to digest.
Eating more fiber is also very necessary. Shooting for 30-50 grams of fiber is helpful to keep things moving.
One more note on food. It has to be said that eating organic is important. It does not have to happen all at once, it didn’t happen like that in my house either. BUT taking steps to start incorporating more organic foods and less conventionally grown foods is needed. Why? Because of the pesticides allowed in conventional farming as well as the ingredients allowed (like high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and dyes that both negatively impact the gut microbiome) in conventional processed foods. Even in organic processed foods there are certain oils allowed (like canola and vegetable oil) that are inflammatory and should be avoided when possible.
2. Stress less. There is much in the world to fear, but these are not things we can control. Control the controllables. “I cannot control what happens in the world, but I can control how I let it affect me and how I respond to it.” Deep breathing (try for at least 5 minutes twice daily), grounding outside while barefeet, make sure you are sleeping, gentle movement and exercise, no strenuous exercise while in a healing phase, tapping, use essential oils, turn off the news…
3. Include probiotics and probiotic rich foods. These include foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. Now, if you drink kombucha and you notice an increase in symptoms, bloating and gas, discomfort, I would stop and work with a functional medicine provider, naturopath, or chiropractor that works with these issues. Otherwise, slowly increase your amount of these foods. You might want to just start with a small spoonful or sauerkraut or sauerkraut juice. Taking probiotics are helpful as well. I take Young Living’s Life9 probiotic that has a delayed release capsule so the good guys actually make it to where they need to go. I also like the Megaspore probiotics.
One probiotic that is actually a heathy and is helpful for healing the gut is Saccharomyces Boulardii. Adding this on to your other probiotic slowly or taking them separately is fine. I start slow when introducing anything to a gut healing regimen.
4. Incorporate bone broth and/or a supplement of glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid that helps to heal the gut lining. Other gut healing drinks include turmeric, ginger, aloe. Collagen is also extremely helpful for healing the gut.
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5. Add digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes can be very helpful because they help to break down food so your gut can absorb nutrients. Introducing acid can be helpful as well. You need adequate stomach acid to absorb nutrients and for proper digestion. Many times, when someone has stomach complaints like heartburn, it’s not actually due to too much acid, instead it is usually due to too little acid. You can introduce more acid with a teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar in 8oz of water before meals (this is helpful for blood sugar too!).
Eating a diet with bitters is helpful because it helps to stimulate bile flow. We don’t want anything to be stagnant, good bile flow is a good thing. Foods that are considered bitters include bitter melon, dandelion greens, citrus peel and other citrus fruits, artichoke, ginger, broccoli, radicchio, brussels sprouts, chicory, kale, arugula.
One of the recipes I have found to be helpful for me and my little girls is this gut healing recipe from Dr. Ana Maria Temple.
1. Core and cube 3 apples with skin on.
2. Add 1/8-1/4 cup raisins.
3. Boil for 5 minutes until apple skins are shiny.
4. Cool and blend.
5. Sip 2 TBSP of this drink three times per day.
The apple pectin helps to protect the gut, it can be fermented by bacteria in the gut, and helps cool gut inflammation. Bonus! This one is great for kids, especially if they were to need antibiotics.
Poor gut health is very common in today’s world of disinfecting every surface, taking multiple rounds of antibiotics, eating processed foods, and our go go go mentality. In order to heal our gut we cannot supplement our way out of it. It has to come with day to day changes that act as baby steps to living a less stressed, whole food eating, low toxin lifestyle.
PLEASE NOTE: As always, this is not medical advice. You should speak with your healthcare provider before changing or adding anything to your routine. This is meant to be educational.